- Getty/Tim Clayton
- Lionel Messi could leave FC Barcelona next summer.
- That is the suggestion of one of the foremost authorities on the Catalan club, Graham Hunter.
- In ESPN, Hunter said there are multiple reasons the Argentine maestro should, and could, leave the Camp Nou in June.
- This includes his desire to win trophies, the lack of quality at the club, and the presence of a release clause in his contract.
- Here’s why this report is wrong, and why Messi will remain with Barcelona.
- Read more of our soccer coverage here.
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Lionel Messi should leave FC Barcelona next summer, one of the foremost authorities on the Catalan club has suggested.
Graham Hunter, who wrote the book “Barca: The Making of The Greatest Team in the World”, recently said in ESPN that there are a number of reasons the Argentine maestro should, and could, leave the Camp Nou at the end of the season.
Here’s Hunter’s three main arguments:
- Messi, 32, wants to continue winning trophies in the twilight of his career.
- His Barcelona teammates are either ageing, struggling, or not good enough.
- A “release clause” in his contract means he is open to leaving.
But this is wrong. Here’s why …
Barcelona is the best place to be for Messi to win trophies
“Do I want to waste the last two or three great years of my career while the people in charge make a continued hash of regeneration and revitalization in order for us to win in Europe? Win a Treble?” said Hunter, spoken as if he was the Argentine.
Unless Messi becomes a “journeyman” over the next few years and jumps from league-to-league in an effort to collect trophies – he’ll be seeing his career out at one club.
And if the criteria for being at said club is that they must win major trophies: no where in world football is a better place for Messi to be than Barcelona.
- Getty/Soccrates Images
In the last three years, while the club has been in supposed turmoil, Barcelona has won six major domestic honours, including back-to-back La Liga titles.
The only clubs in Europe with more titles in similar competitions are Paris Saint Germain and FC Bayern Munich – seven trophies each, albeit in less competitive leagues.
Juventus has matched Barcelona’s tally of six, however, again, with little challenge, while Manchester City has five, Real Madrid has three, and Chelsea has two. Liverpool, who is the current champion of Europe, failed to match its success on the continent in its domestic league at home.
Barcelona’s last UEFA Champions League trophy was won in 2015. But with Real Madrid’s domination of Europe ending last term, this year’s competition is an open playing field, and this season’s undefeated Barca has as much chance of winning it as anyone else.
Messi’s teammates might be ageing, but they aren’t struggling
“At a time when your best-ever playing partner (Luis Suarez) is slowing down, when “fresh bloods” like Ousmane Dembele and Antoine Griezmann have yet to light the blue touch paper … wouldn’t it be natural for Messi to be looking around and just making damn sure that there isn’t greener more succulent grass elsewhere?” Hunter said.
Suarez, 33 in January, has scored eight goals in all competitions so far this season. That’s more than what he has been averaging in seasons past.
With Griezmann, the media appears determined to prove the Frenchman isn’t good enough, nor that he can co-habit with Messi. But four goals and three assists is not a bad return for a player supposedly misfiring. And as for the pair getting along, Messi, whose won three of the five games he’s started alongside Griezmann in, says there’s no problem.
“It’s a lie I didn’t love Griezmann,” Messi told RAC1. “I remember statements I made that he was one of the best and the best are welcome. He comes from playing differently than what we do here but we have no doubt that he will do it. He is a high quality and intelligent player and will end up adapting.”
As for Dembele, last season, aged just 21, he scored 14 goals. When Lionel Messi was the same age, he managed nine, and that was without the pressure of a $144 million price tag on his head.
If there was any obvious negative to highlight, it would be Barcelona’s defense, which has conceded 16 goals this season, but with the commanding Samuel Umtiti back from injury, things are likely to improve.
The contract clause
In early September, the Spanish news publication El Pais wrote about an apparent clause in Messi’s contract which would allow him to leave the club next summer.
Hunter hypothesizes that the presence of said clause was leaked to the media by Messi’s own team, in an attempt to test the interest of the “world’s great clubs.”
“Who leaked the details in Messi’s contract to El Pais newspaper in September? FC Barcelona? Messi’s entourage?” he said. “If it was someone from Team Messi then it’s a kite-flying exercise. Essentially, ‘what, precisely, is out there for Leo in the unlikely event that he chooses to leave?'”
This clause was added in 2017, around a time he spoke openly of his desire to one day play back in his home country with boyhood club Newell’s Old Boys.
According to Marca, said clause can only be activated to leave for a club outside Europe. In other words: Newell’s.
- Getty/Quality Sport Images
Fast forward two years and things appear to have changed. He is yet to enter meaningful talks over a new deal but made it clear last month that he no longer has such a strong desire to return to Argentina.
“If they want me, I would obviously be delighted to remain at Barca,” he told RAC1. “I reiterate that my aim has always been to stay here.
“Nothing has changed; it is as it has always been. Each time it becomes clearer that my aim and that of my family is to finish [my career] here.”